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49ers Fall Short of NFC Title, Super Bowl Trip

Posted Jan 19, 2014

San Francisco fell, 23-17, in Seattle after committing three fourth-quarter turnovers.

SEATTLE This quest will have to be continued at a later date.

The 49ers suffered a 23-17 defeat to the NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks on Sunday afternoon before a 68,454 CenturyLink Field-record crowd.

San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick-led offense was staring at a 1st-and-10 at Seattle's 29-yard line and 55 seconds remaining in the game. The comeback was in sight.

A third fourth-quarter turnover, this one coming on a Kaepernick-to-Michael Crabtree pass in the end zone that would be tipped into the air by cornerback Richard Sherman and intercepted by linebacker Malcolm Smith, ended that hope.

Also no more: the 49ers quest for a second straight Super Bowl appearance.

Instead, the Seahawks will attend their second Super Bowl; they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2005.

VIEW: 49ers-Seahawks Photo Gallery

As the recipient of the George S. Halas Trophy, Seattle will meet Denver on the season-ending stage on Feb. 2 in New Jersey.

The 49ers eight-game winning streak entering the afternoon was snapped.

The NFC West rivals split their regular season matchup with Seattle's dominating Week 2 victory at home and San Francisco’s 19-17 squeaker at Candlestick in Week 14.

Like the latter, this game, 43 degrees at kickoff, was in doubt throughout.

Kaepernick, who was attempting to become the first quarterback in NFL history to make it to the Super Bowl twice in his first three NFL seasons, marveled with his legs (130 yards on 11 carries) but was intercepted twice late.

Seahawks counterpart Russell Wilson, who looked more nonchalant than smooth on the first play of the game, was sacked and stripped of the ball by outside linebacker Aldon Smith.

Three plays after being gifted possession 15 yards from the goal-line, Phil Dawson executed a 25-yard field goal for the first afternoon’s first points.

After NaVorro Bowman’s sack of Wilson ended a promising Seattle drive late in the first quarter, Kaepernick used his legs early in the second to stretch San Francisco’s advantage to 10.

The speedy signal-caller made ground gains of 12 yards and a career-long 58 yards to put him over the century mark, 101 yards on his first six carries. The latter gallop gave the offense the ball at the 10-yard line; reserve running back Anthony Dixon would leap from the one-yard line for a touchdown after his first effort, on 3rd-and-goal, was reviewed and reversed via replay.

The series was costly for the squad; left guard Mike Iupati, who helped pave the way for Dixon, injured his ankle on the play and did not return.

Wilson, with his feet firmly under him the next time he touched the ball, completed a 51-yard pass to Doug Baldwin to the 49ers 11-yard line. Three plays later, Steven Hauschka kicked a 32-yard field goal to cut his team’s deficit to seven points.

That’s how the teams entered their respective locker rooms at intermission.

Big plays became bigger as the game wore on.

The teams traded touchdowns midway through the third quarter. Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch cut back at the line for a 40-yard touchdown run on his team’s first offensive series of the half.

Kaepernick responded on the ensuing drive with consecutive 22-yard gains, on a pass to wideout Michael Crabtree and a scramble on his own accord. Then, one play after the quarterback fumbled the ball at the swat of pass-rusher Michael Bennett, he heaved a 26-yard touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin, who had dropped two passes earlier in the game.

Seattle then cut its disadvantage to four points, 17-13, turning a 69-yard, Doug Baldwin kickoff return into 40-yard Hauschka field goal.

Wilson saved his best throw for the fourth quarter. On 4th-and-7 from San Francisco’s 35-yard line, Wilson looped a long ball into the arms of wideout Jermaine Kearse. Smartly, Wilson threw it up, giving his wideout a chance, knowing the 49ers defense had jumped offside just before the snap.

Following Hauschka’s extra point, the Seahawks led for the first time, 20-17.

Where Wilson got better, Kaepernick did not. He was stripped a second time of the ball during the 49ers first offensive series of the fourth quarter, but this one went unrecovered; that is to say, Bennett found it, carried it to six yards from the end zone.

Things got messier as the fourth quarter waned.

Bowman suffered a gruesome injury to his left leg after stripping Kearse of the ball after Kearse’s nine-yard reception down to the 1-yard line. It was ruled on the field that Lynch recovered the ball, and the play was not reviewable.

Lynch fumbled the handoff from Wilson on the ensuing 4th-and-1 play. Seattle recovered the ball but gave it up on downs.

San Francisco did not make the most of its opportunity. On 1st-and-10 at his own 21-yard line, Kaepernick short-armed a pass to Boldin, and safety Kam Chancellor stepped in front to intercept it.

The home team turned this turnover into a third Hauschka three-pointer, this one from 47 yards out, take a 23-17 lead with less than four minutes remaining.

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